Ron Bramhall

A cacophony of the SOUNDS OF WAR morphs into the steady hum of a fluorescent bulb, blinking above the Veteran's Affairs Benefits Approval Office. CHRIS RISNER, a 30ish Army vet, sits alone, half-asleep. He jolts awake as VA Administrator MISS EVANS calls out his name. In her office, Chris explains that he's seeking additional counseling and a screening for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, He relates his paranoia and how his mind often drifts back to Iraq. He admits to not taking his prescribed antidepressants and Miss Evans uses this as the basis to deny his request. She confides that the VA budget is so tight that they can't afford to screen everyone. Chris accepts the decision politely, finding it hard to fight for anything anymore.

That afternoon, Chris is alone in his apartment when his estranged wife, RAQUEL, calls. They discuss their kids and his visit to the VA. They argue over his use of pot to relax. She tells him that he's not the same person he used to be and that she won't return until he gets help. As he hangs up, the SOUNDS OF WAR rise again, subsiding as he begins looking over a collection of photo memories and his journal.

Chris arrives at the home of his friend and fellow veteran, REGGIE KEY. Chris asks Reggie to read his journal. Reggie knows Chris is slipping away and he offers some insight on dealing with their experiences and the guilt of having killed men. He comforts Chris temporarily, asking him to stay for dinner with his family.

The next day finds Chris on a crowded city street, dressed for business. His actions start to become more animated as his paranoia grows, scanning rooftops and faces before breaking into a run and ducking into a building, overcome again by the SOUNDS OF WAR ringing in his ears.

Chris is at his home again, polished up and wearing his Army Dress Uniform. Reggie calls and questions him about what the journal contains, especially the names and addresses of TV Reporters, CEOs, Coalition Provisional Authority Officials, and Politicians. Chris simply responds, "Accountability," and relates how these people in power have directly altered his life and that someone has to take a stand. When Reggie tells him not to do anything crazy, Chris says, "What's crazy anymore -- what's in my head or what's reported on the news?" and hangs up. Reggie, unsure of what to do, calls the VA Hospital for help.

Chris, in full uniform, pulls into an office parking lot and parks. He removes several weapons from the rear hatch of his vehicle. We know what comes next.

A fire truck responds, shades of 9-11.

Reggie is at his house playing outside with his TODDLER. He goes inside and listens to a message from the VA saying that they appreciate his concern and that they'll try to contact Chris by next week. The tragic news breaks on the radio. Chris has been identified as the shooter of 22 people gathered at a Young Republicans meeting in downtown Dallas. As the NEWSMAN interviews Dallas VA's Chief Psychologist DOCTOR ATEEK about the causes and symptoms of PTSD, Reggie picks up Chris's journal, scattering his photos of family and friends across the floor. In a final act of irony, Doctor Ateek laments over not having had the opportunity to help Chris sooner.

Copyright 2005 Ron Bramhall
All Rights Reserved